Dos and Don'ts of Wedding Guest Fashion

With all those invites on your fridge, you’re probably asking yourself a few questions: what do you want for dinner in four months? Do you have a plus one? And most importantly, what are you going to wear? Here are a few wedding guest fashion tips, do's, and don’ts to ensure you are faux pas-free and win the award for best dressed.

By Kate Lynn Nemett

Wedding Guest Fashion
Photo by Zola

Wedding season is just about to kick into high gear, and with all those invites on your fridge, you’re probably asking yourself a few questions: what do you want for dinner in four months? Do you have a plus one? And most importantly, what are you going to wear? Since we can’t help you out with the date situation, we’re happy to provide some wedding guest fashion tips. Here are a few critical do and don’ts to ensure you are faux pas-free and win the award for best dressed.

Read on for our rules of women’s wedding guest fashion—so you’ll never again have to ask yourself before you walk out the door, “Can I get away with this?”


Fashion Don’ts

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Let’s start with the wedding guest fashion faux pas that you want to avoid for the next shindig on your agenda. We’re starting with don’ts because, frankly, they’re more fun!

  • DON’T wear white, cream, or ivory (unless the couple has specifically asked guests to wear white). You should already know this, so let’s move on.

  • DON’T sport anything too short, too tight, too flashy, or too revealing. The golden rule here, ladies, is that if you would wear the dress out to the bar on a Friday night, you cannot throw it on the next day for a Saturday afternoon wedding. All eyes should be on the bride during the wedding; you don’t want to distract from that with your inappropriate display of skin. And don’t think you’re fooling anyone just because you threw on a cardigan.

  • DON’T forget to layer up. Be mindful of the weather (and the A/C!) and plan accordingly by bringing something to keep goosebumps at bay. This does not mean you should steal your date’s three-sizes-too-big suit jacket. You’ll be so grateful for that complementary pashmina or, better yet, a tailored blazer for a chic look when it starts to get a bit chilly after the sun sets.

  • DON’T wear jeans, unless you’re sure that this wedding is an extremely casual affair (as in, the groom is wearing jeans). We get it, some of us just aren’t dress-up people, but that in no way shape or form means you can wear jeans to a wedding. Not even your favorite dark wash, skinny cut, designer jeans. That doesn’t mean you have to stray from pants though! A tailored trouser is a solid alternative to denim.

  • DON’T try out a crazy print. That means step away from the technicolor animal print you’ve been trying to work into your rotation and instead hop into less eye-catching print that won’t dominate attention in group photographs.


Fashion Dos

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Follow these dressing dos, and you’ll have no problem passing the test on wedding guest fashion.

  • DO read the wedding invitation. First things first: read the invitation, of course! If the bride specifies that she’s having a black-tie affair, you’ll need to wear either a floor-length gown or at least something that comes below the knees. On the other hand, if the invite says “beach casual,” a colorful sundress is perfect. If the invite says “cocktail attire,” wear a cocktail dress. If the couple has a wedding website, you might also find this information there, and probably more in depth. If you’re really stuck on the dress code, don’t be afraid to reach out to the couple (well in advance of the big day) and ask what they have in mind.
  • DO attempt to find out the color of the bridesmaids’ dresses. You don’t want to look like a bridesmaid when you’re not one, so if it’s possible for you to find out what color the bridesmaids are sporting, by all means, do—and then choose a color that isn’t similar.
  • DO think of your footwear. You were asked to share in the couple’s celebration on their wedding day, not hired to aerate the grass. Wearing high heels to a garden or beach wedding is just seriously impractical. How can you enjoy the couple’s signature martini when your heels are constantly sinking into the ground? Instead, opt for a wedge or a stylish flat for outdoor weddings.
  • DO choose a bold accessory. If you have a summer packed with weddings, you may want to consider investing in an impeccably cut, solid-colored dress that you can wear to each soiree by just switching out the accessories. Go for a bold statement necklace, an over-sized envelope clutch, or a funky shoe. Little details like this will make sure you feel trendy and fashionable without breaking the bank.

For the Guys

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Real quick, some wedding guest fashion tips for the guys:

  • Unless the invitation says “black-tie” or “formal,” men should opt for suits over tuxes. Just as ladies don’t wear white so as to not upstage the bride, a man shouldn’t wear a tux for fear of upstaging the groom.
  • “Semi-formal” means a suit, either dark or light; only consider wearing khakis if the invitations says something along the lines of “casual.”
  • Rule of thumb: wear a tie. If you find out you’re overdressed, you can always take it off.
  • Short sleeve dress shirts: just don’t.
  • Don’t wear sneakers, no matter what the attire calls for.

And there you have it! Now go forth and be fashionable.

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